When your food budget is limited…coming to terms

>>Now that you’re in Israel, and the food available is different than the food available in the US, and the prices different as well (not to mention different bulk things available), I was wondering how or if your focus on healthy foods changed…. I was wondering how you prioritized health and made do with what is available here.<<

Rather than go into detail about the specifics of how our diet has changed since we moved to Israel three months ago – I’m happy to share about that in another post if there’s interest – I’m going to share how I think about the nutritional limitations that I’ve felt, and I think many others do, when seeing that the amount of money available doesn’t extend to the the foods they feel are necessary to buy for an optimum diet.

Last year was a difficult year for me in many ways; I often felt like I was chasing my tail, and as a result, I wasn’t cooking as well as I had in the past.  We still had a healthy diet – but too often I’d get discouraged because I was looking at what I wasn’t doing, rather than all that I was doing.  But what I was doing was still significant!

I really enjoy learning about nutrition, and I enjoy feeling like I can take concrete steps to nourish my family.  This is something I’ve enjoyed learning about since I was 17, and I’ve been blessed to have been able to continually learn more and make nutritional improvements over the years.  But there’s a fine line between doing all that we can nutritionally, and developing an unhealthy perfectionism, an attitude of all or nothing.

It’s so easy to get trapped by this, and because it’s coming from a good place, of wanting the best for our families, it can be harder to see that we’ve crossed the line of balance.  Sometimes, people end up feeling that no matter how much they do, it’s never enough.  I certainly did.

I had to mentally recalibrate then, and I periodically have to recalibrate now.  Good nutrition isn’t about an all or nothing approach.  It’s a journey, and sometimes you’ll have different tools available to you than other times as you walk this path.

One of the tools for the journey is money.  Some of us have more, some of us have less.  Accessibility of certain foods is another too.  Physical energy to prepare food from scratch and shop is another tool, desire to learn more is another tool.  The support of our spouses is a tool, the willingness of our children to eat what we make is another tool….there are so many tools!  All of us have some tools in abundance, and other tools are kind of spotty.

When I focus on what  I’m missing, it’s going to keep me from seeing all that I do have!   And to gloss over the amazing abundance we’ve seen over the years because it didn’t provide for every single thing I would have dreamed of would be almost criminal.  Over the last five years, our monthly food budget has ranged from $400 up to $650 (for our family of 11) while living in the US.  It’s been hard for many people to imagine how we fed our family on this amount, let alone kosher, healthy foods – but we were able to integrate many wonderful nutritional components into our way of eating.

Whenever I would go food shopping, I would often feel that G-d made sure I found wonderful bargains, and helped me meet people who were able to help us further expand what we had available (farmers I was able to buy from directly, store managers who were willing to sell to me at wholesale prices, etc).  We were provided for in so many ways.  I felt that our money was blessed and it was able to stretch so much farther than seemed likely!  Does that mean that I had everything I wanted? No. But I had everything I needed.  Big difference!

Of course there were things that I would have liked to have been able to afford.  And now there are things here in Israel that I wish were available or affordable.  But if I get frustrated about what I can’t have/do or get stuck on what I wish I had, it keeps me from seeing and appreciating all that I do have.

Getting stuck in negativity is a bad place to live from, and certainly a bad place to eat from!  Even the best food can’t fully nourish you when you are filled with negativity.  I believe that the frame of mind you eat in also affects your health, and eating less than ideal foods from a place of gratitude and joy is going to do good things for you.

Focusing on all that I have, validating my efforts, and trusting that we’ll be sent the tools that we need for our journey to health and in every other area of life, help me feel at peace with the constraints that I’m often faced with.


(This post is part of Real Food Wednesday.)

8 thoughts on “When your food budget is limited…coming to terms

  1. what an inspiring post! and i would love to hear about how your diets have changed since being in israel. we are at a point where we need to make decisions about which products and which choices will give us the most ‘bang for a buck’ and i’m curious to hear how you all have evolved in that. thanks in advance!

  2. This is a wonderful post that is relevant to all aspects of life – housekeeping, parenting, community service etc. Do what is possible at this moment and when things change, reevaluate and act accordingly.

    I will be rereading this often!

  3. I appreciate your response and as usual, appreciate your wisdom and attitude, that we should appreciate what we have instead of looking at what we don’t. And that’s how I don’t feel guilty about my family’s less than perfect diet when I know there are things that we can be eating healthier, but I just dont have the time, energy, or money….

    However, I asked my original question about food choices not because I felt bad that I wasn’t doing enough or whatever, but because, actually, we do have some extra money now to spend on healthier food and I wanted your opinion on which foods locally are the best bang for your buck nutritionally, specifically with sweeteners, now that we cut out white sugar from our diet.

    1. This is a totally different question than what I thought you were asking. Though I’ve already written a different post responding to the specifics of what I thought you asked, based on what you just said, I don’t think you’ll find it helpful, though you may see a couple of points that will touch on your new question.

      In short, I’d go with the better fats and proteins.

      1. We already are focusing on better fats and proteins, including lots of nuts, cooking with coconut oil, butter, shmaltz, and completely avoid soy oil and canola oil. Our proteins are mainly legumes and organ meats and chicken and nuts and we try to to have as much bone broth as possible. We pretty much only have fish rarely, because the cheap fish here is imported from china and full of chemicals…I can’t switch to organic chickens now- waaay beyond our budget, and we’re off dairy because of stomach sensitivities (but if I could find raw goats milk I’d try that out to see if it worked). (We’re also gluten free in our house now.)
        For the most part, we’re doing things pretty much as we should, sweeteners were mostly the last unhealthy thing we were still eating, and because of reactions with white sugar, we’ve cut them out. Honey, though, is a real fortune, so I try to use it sparingly. I’ve been using real apple juice concentrate as a sweetener. Maple syrup is ungodly expensive. I use pureed dates in some things but I can’t use them in most recipes. Silan, the real stuff, is just as expensive as honey- the cheaper stuff is a mix of date syrup and sugar syrup. And I really dont like the aftertaste of stevia leaves. I’m really not sure which is the most worthwhile to get, which is why I was asking what you do, hoping that maybe it could give me an idea of what I should do.
        And I’m not sure what to do for recipes that call for sugar that are dry (like homemade onion soup mix) because I can’t find sucanat or rapadura.

        So yea, I agree with you about first focusing on getting healthy fats and proteins, but we are already doing that. I just wanted to know about sweeteners, because thats the “stage we’re up to”,

      2. I am trying to cut out sweeteners in general, and not making so many sweet foods, but occasionally I do want to make sweet, or I need a sweetener in a recipe, and my kids do like their breakfast sweet.

  4. as always, perfect timing for such a post. these past few weeks i haven’t been in the mood of our nutrient dense food lifestyle and getting too hard on myself about doing more(fermenting more, expanding the garden, etc) when really i should be focusing on what we ARE already doing and feel good about the long way we have come.

  5. Love your positive attitude! I would like to hear about how your diet has changed now that you’re in Isreal. Thanks for writing a great blog!

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